Monday, 29 September 2014

Archeological dig...after a fashion.

I took part in an archeological dig today.

Well...not quite.

Took part in another cleanup organized by the Stewards of Cootes Watershed, near the Desjardins Canal, along the northeast shore of Cootes Paradise. 75 volunteers from McMaster came out. Which would mean being able to tackle a sizable chunk of the problem.

And the amount of garbage was, pardon my language, fucking mind boggling. Not even the bigger stuff, like bottles and cans. That had already been cleaned up. No. Small plastic detritus. Staggering amounts. Sorting through it was like an archeological dig. Delving into a period of very recent human rubbish.

Bottle caps, cigarello mouth pieces, tampon applicators, tamper proof seals, golf balls, 1" drug baggies, tips for glue tubes, tips for caulking tubes, corks, stir sticks, straws, coffee cup lids, freezie tubes, bobbers, balloons, combs, lighters, happy meal toy parts, kinder eggs, present wrapping ribbon, syringes, googly eyes, tooth brushes, caps for cap guns, retail store hangers, badminton birdies, hair barrettes, zip ties, plastic cutlery, busted tictac boxes, plastic bags, green army men, styrofoam cups, ping pong balls, elastics, Q-tips, cassette wheels, and all sorts of unidentifiable pieces. I could go on. Found a fist sized snow globe ball.

I just chose a spot, any spot, and got to work. I put on knee pads, spread out a tarp and an inflatable seat pad, situated myself in a spot in the shade near Tys Theysmeyer, the Head of Natural Lands at Royal Botanical Gardens. Kneeling, bending, sitting, squatting – I used a trowel and well gloved hands to sift through the area above the sandy and rocky beach. About a two meter circle. And I filled a large garbage bag. Full. Everyone else filled dozens and dozens of bags. The pile was 4, maybe 5 meters long, meter, meter and half high and wide. The weight was an approximate 200 to 225 kilograms. A tire. A road pylon. All in an area about 30 to 40 meters long.

And if I went back tomorrow I could fill a similar sized bag in a few hours. And do it again many, many times. 

But what is a lot more disturbing were the pellets. Lentil sized pellets. Gravel almost. And not a few of them. The soil is laced with them. A handful of soil would net you dozens and dozens of them. I asked Tys and even he wasn’t sure. I asked if it could be silica gel. Someone else suggested they might be the granules that fill diapers. Most of the objects I listed are graspable, recognizable. As tedious and gross as it is, it is doable. Granules the size of a match head, by the millions. Just in that one spot. How do you get that out?

And what was depressing about it was that most of this, nearly all of this massive amount of plastic, was that it wasn’t an accretion from decades past, but at most 5, maybe 10 years of stuff. Most of what I found was a fairly recent thing.

Do what you can, where you are, with the abilities you have, with the time you have.

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